Author Topic: Private Parties at Restaurants  (Read 3754 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

UpdatedName

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 288
Private Parties at Restaurants
« on: January 04, 2012, 10:42:34 AM »
September of last year (2011), DH and I thought it would be fun to throw a black tie dinner for our friends--everyone could get dressed to the nines and have a lovely night out. It would be about 15-20 people, so we wanted to do something like rent a private room at a nice restaurant. The only consideration was that we needed an all vegetarian prix fixe menu--we wanted either a soup or salad (preferable soup since it's winter), at least one main course option (though we'd have preferred two), and a dessert. Our tentative date was January 7, so starting the first week of October seemed like plenty of time. I started calling a few places to ask about the possibility of doing our dinner there, and narrowed it down to three places. Two were local restaurants, one was a hotel in the next town over that had the most gorgeous room you've ever seen (can you tell which I was leaning toward?).

When I spoke to each, I made it clear that we were just interested in pricing/menu options at this point--though both restaurants had us "book it" as a reservation, just so that noone else could take the date while they were getting back to me. The restaurants assured me that they would contact me with menu options/pricing in a few weeks. Since I was speaking to them first week of October, I figured this meant that I'd get info back by mid/late November. The hotel told me they'd contact me with the info the following week.

Suffice it to say, none of this happened. Since I was most interested in the hotel, I only actively pursued them. I called back after two weeks (so a week after I should have gotten a call), and was told that the chef had had to go out of town, but that she (the catering saleslady) had a meeting with him about it the next day. I then heard nothing. In November, I called four times--twice I left a voicemail on her answering machine, twice I spoke with another person in the department who promised me that if Original Saleslady couldn't call me back that day, they would. No calls back. I finally got an unapologetic call in December telling me a lacklustre menu that didn't have any of the things we'd asked for. I told them at that point that, due to their service, I would not be hosting our event there.

I never heard back from one of the restaurants. Today I got an E-mail from the second "confirming" our reservation so that they could finish planning the menu options--the options they were supposed to have contacted me with about 1-2 months ago now.

So, if you're still with me, is this normal for trying to host a small event at a restaurant or hotel? Is it always pulling teeth, or is there some crucial step I should have said/done to make this more seamless? As it is, we just gave up on the idea altogether, but I'd like to actually go through with it one day.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2012, 11:02:32 AM by UpdatedName »

Shoo

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 16393
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2012, 10:49:20 AM »
Whenever I plan anything, I never "wait" for them to get back in touch with me.  I am much too organized and proactive (and paranoid) to let them decide when things need to be done.  On the agreed upon date, if I haven't heard from them by mid-day, I am on the phone.  If, after a few days of not being able to nail something down, I would cross this establishment off my list and move on to the next choice.

So, I think your problem may have been too much patience (and trust).  I'd say if you're not getting answers you want/need almost immediately, that is a red flag to not use that place.  I do not think it is normal to be put off the way you were. 

Reader

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 634
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2012, 10:57:39 AM »
I think it depends on the business.  For me it's a major red flag as well.  I was head of a bachelorette party a few years back and I wanted to reserve a table at one of the dance clubs in my city.  So I called and got the club's answering machine and left a message regarding asking for pricing of the packets they offered with the reserved tables and asking to reserve one.  Didn't hear anything back for a week.  Called back and left another message.  And still never heard back from the club.  So we skipped that club altogether when we went out.  Which was a shame because we had 7 girls, one being the DD because she doesn't drink, so the rest of us girls dropped quite a bit on alcohol since we didn't have to drive. 

UpdatedName

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 288
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2012, 10:59:25 AM »
Whenever I plan anything, I never "wait" for them to get back in touch with me.  I am much too organized and proactive (and paranoid) to let them decide when things need to be done.  On the agreed upon date, if I haven't heard from them by mid-day, I am on the phone. If, after a few days of not being able to nail something down, I would cross this establishment off my list and move on to the next choice.

So, I think your problem may have been too much patience (and trust).  I'd say if you're not getting answers you want/need almost immediately, that is a red flag to not use that place.  I do not think it is normal to be put off the way you were.

There was a very limited number of places that fit our criteria, which is why I was more forgiving than I would usually be. Most of the more upscale places around here were either steakhouses or seafood restaurants--I would have felt a little silly asking them for a prix fixe vegetarian menu!
« Last Edit: January 04, 2012, 11:01:09 AM by UpdatedName »

lowspark

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3097
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2012, 04:28:30 PM »
I've only planned a private party in a restaurant a couple of times, but both times I made an appointment to meet with the person in charge in person. Not over the phone. It's best to sit down with them and go over things face to face in my experience. So that's what I would have done with maybe all three of the restaurants you were considering -- at least attempt to make an appointment.

But if I understand correctly, the party is set for three days from now. Did you essentially skip the whole thing and not end up organizing it/inviting people? If so, at some point, I probably would have called the restaurants which you had booked and told them to cancel.

I agree though that they were pretty lax about the whole thing and should have gotten back with you. I'm guessing they got caught up in the busy season and just didn't make it a priority. I'm also guessing that they looked at the date and said, 2012! That's miles away. Till they woke up and realized it was here.

WhiteTigerCub

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2012, 04:59:09 PM »
I think most business's get into their head that they need  "X" weeks out from an event date to have items ready. As a result they put something on their calendar and then 'forget' that the customer may need information before that time.

I bet they also get umpteen requests everyday for package pricing and how much will it cost to do an event on XX/XX/XX date so they don't really see it as something 'definate' unless the customer takes action to get more information.

To get around this, I'd let them know my planning deadlines. "Hi, I am looking on having a dinner party for approx 20 people on 01/07/12. I am looking for <vegetarin options A, B,C>  and hope to have all the details worked out no later than 11/15/11. Please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX ASAP to discuss the options."   They need to know the urgency you feel and what to do to get the ball rolling.

Arizona

UpdatedName

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 288
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2012, 11:23:39 AM »
I've only planned a private party in a restaurant a couple of times, but both times I made an appointment to meet with the person in charge in person. Not over the phone. It's best to sit down with them and go over things face to face in my experience. So that's what I would have done with maybe all three of the restaurants you were considering -- at least attempt to make an appointment.

But if I understand correctly, the party is set for three days from now. Did you essentially skip the whole thing and not end up organizing it/inviting people? If so, at some point, I probably would have called the restaurants which you had booked and told them to cancel.


I agree though that they were pretty lax about the whole thing and should have gotten back with you. I'm guessing they got caught up in the busy season and just didn't make it a priority. I'm also guessing that they looked at the date and said, 2012! That's miles away. Till they woke up and realized it was here.

Yes, we decided to skip the whole thing. I didn't call to cancel, mainly because I figured, since I'd never heard back from them, that they'd essentially cancelled on me, if that makes sense.

From the sound of it, I guess it's just one of those things that you have to stay on top of more than I did. Glad I know for the future!

Carotte

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 921
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2012, 07:35:51 PM »
Maybe asking to meet someone at the restaurant face-to-face would have given more results, but that means having time to actually go there.
Most restaurants have some down time between midday and diner time, so having someone available (: like a Maître de or the head of the service, the rep, the owner, the chef..) whoever might be able to give you quotes and a menu plan is not so far fetched, bigger ones or the hotel should even have someone who's job it is to deal with that.
A party of 15/20 people should not be something to turn their nose on!

Searcher

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 352
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2012, 07:49:22 PM »
The one time I planned such a party, I did it with an event planner.  I thought I had gotten a good deal, but the venue in question canceled out on me anyway.

Now, I don't plan such parties.

jpcher

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8476
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2012, 06:50:23 PM »
So, if you're still with me, is this normal for trying to host a small event at a restaurant or hotel? Is it always pulling teeth, or is there some crucial step I should have said/done to make this more seamless? As it is, we just gave up on the idea altogether, but I'd like to actually go through with it one day.

I don't know if it's normal or not . . . I would like to think NOT! . . . because I've only hosted one special dinner for 20 guests (DD#1's HS graduation dinner) in a private room at a restaurant almost 2 years ago.

I would definitely go back there again. Their service and catering to me was phenomenal from the first inquiry phone call to the end of the dinner.

DD#2 wants her dinner at a different restaurant and I would hope/expect to receive the same quality of service.



For restaurants . . . find a restaurant that you enjoy. A place that serves the type of food that you like (vegetarian) on their regular menu. Ask about the room/table accommodations. In my case for a private room it was either a room for 20 or a room for 90.

Instead of you deciding on a choice of a specific meal or two for your guests, ask if you can provide your guests with an abbreviated menu. Meal choices off of their regular menu but within your price range instead of going with a price per person. This makes it easier for the restaurant because they don't have to do anything outside of their normal box.

Once I booked the room (two months in advance) I asked them when they needed confirmation as to how many people and menu choice. I didn't expect a call back from them. It was up to me to call them by confirmation date. (One week prior to service.) Get all of your info up front then make sure you get a confirmation from them for date and time.

Unless you haven't confirmed a reservation, I wouldn't think that it would be up to them to contact you. They probably get many calls just asking for simple information.

You are looking for their service. They have other customers to attend to. If they don't need your business and don't actively pursue you as a customer? Go elsewhere.

If it's a place that you're really interested in? Call back many times with various questions. Once they know that you are serious about booking with them they should change their tune.

After you confirm the date?  They should be all over pleasing you.



Booking a fine dinner at a restaurant/hotel shouldn't be like pulling teeth.

Hopefully your next party-planning won't be like your first. I'm looking forward to doing it again and I hope that I won't run into the problems that you have had.

UpdatedName

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 288
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2012, 02:59:14 PM »
So, if you're still with me, is this normal for trying to host a small event at a restaurant or hotel? Is it always pulling teeth, or is there some crucial step I should have said/done to make this more seamless? As it is, we just gave up on the idea altogether, but I'd like to actually go through with it one day.

I don't know if it's normal or not . . . I would like to think NOT! . . . because I've only hosted one special dinner for 20 guests (DD#1's HS graduation dinner) in a private room at a restaurant almost 2 years ago.

I would definitely go back there again. Their service and catering to me was phenomenal from the first inquiry phone call to the end of the dinner.

DD#2 wants her dinner at a different restaurant and I would hope/expect to receive the same quality of service.



For restaurants . . . find a restaurant that you enjoy. A place that serves the type of food that you like (vegetarian) on their regular menu. Ask about the room/table accommodations. In my case for a private room it was either a room for 20 or a room for 90.

Instead of you deciding on a choice of a specific meal or two for your guests, ask if you can provide your guests with an abbreviated menu. Meal choices off of their regular menu but within your price range instead of going with a price per person. This makes it easier for the restaurant because they don't have to do anything outside of their normal box.

Once I booked the room (two months in advance) I asked them when they needed confirmation as to how many people and menu choice. I didn't expect a call back from them. It was up to me to call them by confirmation date. (One week prior to service.) Get all of your info up front then make sure you get a confirmation from them for date and time.

Unless you haven't confirmed a reservation, I wouldn't think that it would be up to them to contact you. They probably get many calls just asking for simple information.

You are looking for their service. They have other customers to attend to. If they don't need your business and don't actively pursue you as a customer? Go elsewhere.

If it's a place that you're really interested in? Call back many times with various questions. Once they know that you are serious about booking with them they should change their tune.

After you confirm the date?  They should be all over pleasing you.



Booking a fine dinner at a restaurant/hotel shouldn't be like pulling teeth.

Hopefully your next party-planning won't be like your first. I'm looking forward to doing it again and I hope that I won't run into the problems that you have had.

Normally, we'd just go with one of our usual restaurants, but they're all much more casual than we were looking for (think local diner rather than restaurant with private rooms). And one of my criterion for restaurants to reach out to was that they have at least one vegetarian main already on their menu--but most only had sample menus online, with the caveat that they changed often, which is why I asked about sample options/pricing. I'm glad to hear, though, that you had a good experience with booking your son's graduation party, and that it is possible for things to go smoothly. Can I ask whether you went the abbreviated menu route, or if everyone ordered off the regular menu? If everyone ordered off the regular menu, how was payment arranged?

jpcher

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8476
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2012, 06:47:34 PM »
Normally, we'd just go with one of our usual restaurants, but they're all much more casual than we were looking for (think local diner rather than restaurant with private rooms). And one of my criterion for restaurants to reach out to was that they have at least one vegetarian main already on their menu--but most only had sample menus online, with the caveat that they changed often, which is why I asked about sample options/pricing. I'm glad to hear, though, that you had a good experience with booking your son's graduation party, and that it is possible for things to go smoothly. Can I ask whether you went the abbreviated menu route, or if everyone ordered off the regular menu? If everyone ordered off the regular menu, how was payment arranged?

I went with an abbreviated menu . . . taking off things like fresh lobster at market price ;). I did have a nice sampling of 2-3 items each for vegetarian, chicken, beef, pasta, seafood.

I pre-ordered a few appetizer trays along with a few sampler dessert trays.

I printed my own menus (with e-mail confirmations from the manager/event coordinator) and was able to bring them to the restaurant prior to the dinner so that they would be placed with the place setting.

For payment, I made sure that the bill would not appear in the room with my guests. I arranged for the bill to be at the hostess station and when I was ready to pay, I quietly slipped out of the room and paid the bill.

If it helps you . . . here is the thread that I posted when I was in the planning stages:

http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=77709.0


I think that it helped me knowing which restaurant that I wanted to go to, even though I didn't go there very often (I don't do fancy-shcmancy as a rule ;)) but the few times I've been there, I was always impressed with the food and service.

Maybe, before planning your next event, take your DH out to a couple of fancy-shcmancy places for dinner (date night! Woo Hoo! ;D) and see how you like them instead of going in with a cold-call.




Good Luck! Don't let your first experience discourage you.


Ceallach

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4447
    • This Is It
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2012, 07:01:59 PM »
I wouldn't want the menu committed to too early actually - many really good restaurants base customized menus largely around seasonal produce or what is good and available.   

So I'd focus on a restaurant where you knew the quality of the food was good - either from personal experience or word of mouth - and book it in.  I'd want an initial conversation with the chef about some possible options to ensure we were on the "same page".   Then I'd expect the week beforehand to have definite menu confirmations based on what they could do at the time.   

I think the bigger issue here was that they miscommunicated and gave you the wrong expectations. They promised one thing and did something entirely different. Which is a very poor business practice.
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


Girly

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 872
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2012, 11:56:06 AM »
I work at a venue that does catering and private party events. That's not ALL they do (it's actually a local artisan center), but they do a lot of catering both in, and out of house.

I actually just attending an event, as a guest only, last Friday, for 350 people, and it was spectacular. We, as guests, had no menu choices, but that was because with such a large number of people, the menu was fixed beforehand by the event planner.

The process at our particular venue is such that you first call the event planner (or front desk) and make an appointment to speak with either her (for renting a room only) or her and the head chef (for a catered onsite event). For a catered offsite event, you meet with the chef only. At or before that meeting, you tell chef what you would like, and he gives you some options and pricing. You sign the contract and pay when you decide our venue is right for you.

Sorry you had such a tough time!!

Aggiesque

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3940
Re: Private Parties at Restaurants
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2012, 09:08:12 PM »
We always make an apt to speak with their planner. Sorry your party didn't happen :(
Aggie

My favorite blog, which discusses personal finance: http://www.opinmoney.blogspot.com/